Spike’s Idiot Box: There’s No Place Like ‘Homeland’

My DVR has been working overtime lately. It seems like just about every current show is pumping out new episodes. I’m almost looking forward to the holidays and reruns, just so that I can ease up a little. I keep threatening to cut a lot of shows out of my watch list, but somehow that never seems like it would be enough.

This week, I watched the first half (six episodes) of the third season of ‘Homeland‘. I see a lot of grousing about how this show has gone downhill, but I still love it. I care about the major characters, and the tension is still high. Carrie began the season by getting grilled by a Congressional committee over what she may have known about the Langley attacks. She insisted that Brody didn’t know there was a bomb in his car, but nobody really believed her. She’s off lithium and seems to be losing her grip. After apparently getting sold out by her boss Saul, Carrie was committed to a psych ward. A deal was eventually made with the real Langley mastermind, the Iranian intelligence director Javadi, in which Carrie was asked to supply inside information on the inner workings of the CIA. It turned out that this was all according to a plan devised by Saul and Carrie, hoping to get access to Javadi.

Brody has unfortunately only been in one episode this season, but it was a doozy. After getting shot, he’s been hiding out to recover in a high rise squat in Venezuela. He wants to leave, but his handlers refuse. After a failed attempt to seek asylum at a nearby mosque that ended in the murder of the Imam and his wife, Brody resigned himself to his dismal fate. By the end of the episode, he lost hope and gave in to shooting heroin. Meanwhile, Saul was passed over for directorship of the CIA. He’s been on his game, though, and his clever machinations are without a doubt brilliant. Unfortunately, the show has also had a largely uninteresting subplot involving Brody’s daughter Dana, who attempted suicide, got committed, ran away with a boy, returned home, changed her name, and left home again in an effort to escape her identity and her past. That sounds like a lot – and it is, but she’s a minor character and I just can’t muster much interest. This storyline certainly doesn’t drive the main narrative in any way that I can see. Despite minor quibbles, I’m very much looking forward to the last half of this season.

After a brief hiatus for baseball, Fox’s Animation Domination lineup returned with new episodes of ‘Family Guy‘, ‘American Dad‘, ‘The Simpsons‘ and the superb ‘Bob’s Burgers‘. ‘Guy’ and ‘Dad’ were what we’ve come to expect: vulgar gross-out comedy and a few laughs. ‘The Simpsons’ dedicated its new episode to the late Marcia Wallace, the voice of Mrs. Krabappel and a television legend. On ‘Burgers’, a bored Linda took flying lessons and ended up stranded on a deserted island fighting off the advances of a would-be lothario, before Bob came to the rescue and provided her with a real and unexpected adventure.

In ‘Eastbound & Down‘, Kenny Powers continues the downward spiral of his personal life, even as his professional life takes off. After being humiliated on the air by Guy, Kenny turned the tables and exposed him to be a truly obnoxious and unlikable ass. Unfortunately, after throwing an awkward, painful party for his long-suffering wife, she packed her bags and left with the kids.

Last week on ‘The Walking Dead‘, Carol and Rick went on a quest for food while Darryl and his crew continued their search for a vaccine. Rick ended up kicking Carol out of the group, which to my way of thinking was a disastrous decision. Carol has been making the hard choices and acting like much more of a leader than Rick, who can’t seem to get out of his funk and spends most of his time gardening these days. There will be consequences to this decision, of that we can be sure. Afterwards on ‘Talking Dead‘, professional wrestler Chris Jericho was as a guest commentator. After the disaster of Marilyn Manson the previous week, it was a refreshing surprise to learn how much of a super-fan Jericho is of the show. Moreover, he was truly geeked to be there, and his commentary was thoughtful, insightful, and thoroughly entertaining. I hope he comes back!

On ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown‘, Bourdain traveled to Tokyo to explore the dark, pervy, extreme underground nightlife scene. Among other things, he investigated the appeal of manga, tentacle porn, rock and roll, and assorted sex clubs – all while being lubricated liberally by alcohol and stuffing himself silly with amazing food.

While I’ve been enjoying ‘The Blacklist‘, I thought last week’s episode was pretty lame. Liz and Red investigated a chemical attack on a subway. A weaponized disease that accelerated the hardening of arteries and the destruction of human cardiovascular systems was used, and the result was a story more suitable for ‘Fringe’ or ‘The X-Files’. The show needs to stick to terrorists and serial killers, and leave the science fiction to sci-fi shows. Oh, also Red bought his childhood suburban home and subsequently blew it up. Then he walked away; no big whoop. Asinine.

2 Broke Girls‘ featured jokes about tampons, Han’s height, hepatitis-C, a hooker, the rectum, a strip club, syphilis, gonorrhea, sperm, bisexuality, the male “package” and “junk,” an inflatable sex doll, premature ejaculation, drug use, hand jobs, fake orgasms, erections, oral sex, S&M, the gag reflex, big boobs, little boobs, and religion. Pretty much like every episode that preceded it.

Mike & Molly‘ returned to CBS for its season premiere. There’s really not a lot to recommend about this show. It’s pretty bad. Everyone loves Melissa McCarthy, though. To its credit, the episode focused largely on her. Molly went through an existential crisis and quit her teaching job to become a writer. She also went on a drunken bender with her mother and sister, which was mildly entertaining.

On ‘Sons of Anarchy‘, Clay went a bit Hannibal Lecter by faking insanity and biting a chunk off a guard’s face off. This was all part of a ploy to position himself for escape. Meanwhile, Jax decided to work with the D.A. and promised to give up the Irish and their gun-running operation. The truth finally came out about Tara and her attempt to frame Jemma. Consequences will surely be high.

Boardwalk Empire‘ has been kind of slow-going lately. I’m still enjoying the show, but I hope the story gets jacked up a bit soon. Van Alden stood up to Capone and offered to kill O’Bannion for a price. In the meantime, after being attacked in an alley by former associates, he cold-bloodedly murdered each of them. Richard Harrow returned to Atlantic City and asked Nucky to give him a job. Where Harrow goes, death follows!

American Horror Story: Coven‘ spent the first half of last week’s episode dispatching zombies. I hope they don’t return. It picked up in the second half, though. LaLaurie tried to bond with Fiona over shared tragedy, but was coldly rebuffed. Cordelia was blinded and disfigured by acid. Fiona recruited Queenie to help her frame Myrtle for the acid attack, and the Council condemned her to death. Myrtle, majestic with her long, flaming red hair and black horn-rimmed glasses, warned them that Fiona would eventually destroy them all, before being roasted in a good old-fashioned witch-burning. However, the Fleetwood Mac-loving swamp witch discovered her body and apparently brought her back to life!

The League‘ is dependably raunchy, and kind of topped itself last week… if that’s even possible. Taco opened a mobile pubic hair salon. Ruxin, a customer, texted a picture of his freshly-shorn equipment to his wife while driving and was pulled over by a cop, who mistook the photo for child porn. Taco donated his cache of shaved pubic hair to a pediatric cancer ward for wigs. Ugh… I know, but it was funny – though I had to immediately take a shower after watching.

Last week also marked the season finale for ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘. The gang decided to squash their beefs with all their adversaries over a Thanksgiving dinner of, literally, squash and beef. A rage-filled food fight ensued and, in the true spirit of the season, the gang sealed everyone up in a burning apartment. It’s been a pretty good season for ‘Sunny’. I can’t help but think that moving it and ‘The League’ to the new FXX channel was a mistake, though. Both shows’ audiences have shrunken to almost nothing. For most cable providers, FXX is on an additional, pricier tier. There’s almost no original programming on it, and clearly viewers aren’t very interested. I noticed that ‘Archer’ will stay on FX next year instead of going to FXX. The networks(s) will need to rethink the split.

Until next time, join in the conversation below!


  1. The finale of It’s Always Sunny was probably the best episode of this season, which was fairly underwhelming on the whole. The show suffers the same problem as too many long-running sitcoms. After they’ve told pretty much all the good jokes they have to tell, the cast and writers rely on broader, more cartoonish variations on those same jokes. The Lethal Weapon 6 episode, for example, didn’t work nearly as well as the Lethal Weapon 5 episode from Season 6. It was all the same jokes we’ve seen before, and it seemed very implausible that not a single one of the “investors” the gang went to ever bothered to point out that they couldn’t finance a Lethal Weapon sequel because the rights to the franchise name and characters are owned by a major Hollywood studio.

    The Blacklist is the type of show that I “watch” while surfing the internet on my phone or occupying my attention on other things. I saw the episode, and your description of it sounds very familiar, but I’ll be damned if I can remember anything specific about it, whether good or bad.

    Over the past week, I finally finished off Low Winter Sun, the last half dozen episodes of which had sat on my DVR for a long time. I’ve also been catching up on Ray Donovan, but have a few episodes of that left to go.

  2. Michael Spike Steinbacher

    For the most part, I enjoyed this season of Sunny. You’re right, though. It’s fairly predictable that shows that have gotten a bit long in the tooth lose the freshness and originality that made them so great in the first place.
    I probably would have tired of The Blacklist by now if not for James Spader. He’s quite talented and has charisma that appeals to me. As it is, I like the show, but if it were cancelled I wouldn’t really miss it. But I don’t think it runs the risk of cancellation at all. We’ll see how it holds up after its coveted The Voice lead in no longer props it up.
    I loved Low Winter Sun when it started. By the time it was over, though, I pretty much hated it. A great idea and a good cast…all squandered.

  3. T.J. Kats

    Last couple of episodes for homeland have really picked up. More spy stuff and less of the Dana Brody Variety hour has made the show get back to what it needs to be.

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